Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz

1854Złotopol, Poland (now Ukraine) | 1893Warsaw, Poland
Informations

Polish pastellist and painter.

Anna Bilińska was born in Złotopol, at the eastern edge of pre-partition Poland and now Novomyrhorod, Ukraine, to Jan Biliński and Waleria née Gorzkowska. In 1867 the family settled in Viatka, now Kirov in Russia, where her father practised his profession of physician among Polish political exiles. Among them was the draughtsman Michał Elwiro Andriolli (1836-1893), who gave the young A. Bilińska her first drawing lessons. She went on to study painting under Wojciech Gerson (1831-1901), a painter and professor of some renown who, from 1867, gave lessons to women in Warsaw. A. Bilińska joined his class in 1877 and regularly exhibited works at the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts in Warsaw. In 1882 A. Bilińska embarked on a study trip that would take her to Munich, Vienna and Venice; she subsequently decided to continue her artistic apprenticeship in Paris. Small landcapes, realist portraits, two sketchbooks and a journal kept up until 1886 date from this period.

Despite social and economic constraints, as well as poor health, A. Bilińska pursued her professional training. Between 1882 and 1890 she attended the Académie Julian in Paris, a private school for painting and sculpture founded in 1868, which pioneered equal access education for women and foreigners. Her professors were the Academy’s founder Rodolphe Julian (1839-1907), and Tony Robert-Fleury (1837-1911); she also took private lessons with Luc-Olivier Merson (1846-1920). A. Bilińska’s talent was soon recognised and celebrated: she became head, or massière, of the painting studio, and won medals in academy competitions, notably the first prize of the second class of the Prix Julian for her painting Femme en kimono avec une ombrelle japonaise [Woman in a kimono with a japanese umbrella, 1888]. After participating in international exhibitions, she collected articles written about her work in the press into Le Mémorial. L’album de la peintre Anna Bilińska. She exhibited works in Paris, at the Salon (1884-1893, excluding 1886), at the international exhibition Blanc et Noir – dedicated to black and white graphic works – (1885, 1886, 1888), and at the annual salon of the Union des femmes peintres et sculpteurs (1888-1891). Elsewhere, works were displayed in exhibitions of the Sociéte lyonnaise des beaux-arts (1888-1893), at the Grosvenor Gallery (1888-1890) and Royal Academy in London (1888, 1892), at the Munich Glaspalast (1890-1891) and, in 1891, at the Berlin Internationale Kunstausstellung, where she received a gold medal of the second class for her Portrait de la comtesse Angèle de Vauréal [Portrait of the Countess Angèle de Vauréal, 1889].
Bilińska produced carefully composed realist portraits, genre scenes and still lifes in oil and pastel on canvas, and was also adept in watercolour and charcoal. Holidaying in Normandy, Brittany and the Isle of Oléron, she made small, luminous pochades, colour sketches, captured on the spot.

The Paris Salon of 1887 was a key moment in the artist’s career: she receive a medal of the third class for her Autoportrait, depicting herself as the professional artist she was, paintbrushes in hand. The same painting won her a silver medal and out-of-competition spot at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889. Her realistic style of portraiture led to frequent comparisons with her male peers, and her work became sought-after among the aristocracy and financial elite of Paris and Lyon: her largest canvas, the Portrait du sculpteur George Grey Barnard [Portrait of the sculptor George Grey Barnard, 1890], was a commission from American philanthropist Alfred Corning Clark. Her final painting, a self-portrait (Autoportrait, 1892), remained unfinished due to the resurgence of her heart disease. The artist’s sudden death at the age of 39 put an end to her plans to found a school of painting for women in Poland. Archives preserved and distributed to cultural institutions by Antoni Bohdanowicz, A. Bilińska’s husband and first biographer, document the artist’s life and career.

Renata Higersberger

Translated from the French by Flora Hibberd.


© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Studium kobiety [A Study of a woman], historic title: Murzynka [Negress], 1884, oil on canvas, 63 x 48.5 cm, National Museum, Warsaw

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Portret kobiety [Portrait of a woman], 1884, charcoal on paper, 50.5 x 41.5 cm, National Museum, Kraków

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Półakt – studium mężczyzny [Half-act – A study of a man], 1885, oil and gouache on canvas, 95 x 67 cm, National Museum, Warsaw

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Nad morzem [At the coast], 1886, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm, National Museum, Warsaw

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Maki [Poppies], 1886, oil on canvas, 59 x 56 cm, Podlaskie Museum, Białystok

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Autoportret z paletą [Self-portrait with a palette], 1887, oil on canvas, 117 x 90 cm, National Museum, Krakow

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Kobieta w kimonie z japonska parasolka (Japonka) [Woman in kimono with Japanese umbrella (Japanese woman)], 1888, pastel on canvas, 94 x 74 cm, National Museum, Warsaw

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Ulica Unter den Linden w Berlinie [Unter den Linden avenue in Berlin], 1890, oil on canvas, 82 x 60 cm, National Museum, Warsaw

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Jedyna pociecha (Wieśniaczka z dzieckiem) [The only consolation (Peasant with a child)], 1891, pastel on canvas, 160 x 95 cm, National Museum, Warsaw

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Pejzaż z Beg-Meil [Landscape from Beg-Meil], 1891, oil on canvas, 33.1 x 46.2 cm, private collection

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Portret młodej kobiety z różą w ręku [Portrait of a young woman with a rose in her hand], 1892, oil on canvas, 147 x 98 cm, National Museum, Warsaw

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz, Autoportret niedokończony [Unfinished self-portrait], 1892, oil on canvas, 163 x 113.5 cm, National Museum, Warsaw

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